Summer camp is back on at Lawson Lake Park thanks to a new partnership between Albany County and local organizations.
The announcement was made on Wednesday, July 3, within the park’s newly renovated Waldman Lodge in Coeymans. Kids are already happily participating in camp activities. County officials credited the opening of the park to the efforts of Albany County Executive Dan McCoy, Sheriff Craig Apple and District Attorney David Soares.
“Last year we were notified that the Boys and Girls Club couldn’t afford to get out to the lake, so they weren’t going to use it anymore,” said McCoy. “I’ve always said Lawson Lake is the gem of Albany County and I wanted to form a partnership to make sure make this happen once again for the kids.”
Lisa Hunter, the executive director of the Boys and Girls Club of Albany, said the organization had been holding summer camps at Lawson Lake since the 1990s, but decided last year to end the program because of increasing costs, such as transportation. The park’s facilities had also been deteriorating over the years and needed work.
That’s when the county stepped in. To spruce up the park, renovations and landscaping were performed by the Albany County Sheriff’s Explorers Unit and inmates from the Albany County jail through an inmate workforce program. Volunteers from the Boys and Girls Club also took part.
“Lawson Lake will provide a safe environment for all Albany County kids to enjoy,” said Apple. “Our Sheriff Explorers Unit, which is made up of teenagers, marked all the trails and our inmate workforce provided hundreds of hours of labor to clean and prepare the camp for the kids. This truly has been a synergetic effort.”
McCoy said teenagers had been using the park buildings as a place to party over the years, and that’s how some of the facilities became run down. The sheriff’s office will be stepping up its patrols of the park.
The Capital District Transportation Authority stepped in to provide transportation for campers. Those who participate in the several camps that will take place at Lawson Lake will be taken be picked up and dropped off for free.
“We’re pleased to work with the county executive to offer our youth easy access to Lawson Lake Camp to ensure a fulfilling summertime experience,” said CDTA CEO Carm Basile.
The Boys and Girls Club, The Pride Center of the Capital Region and St. Catherine’s Center for Children will each have different types of camps and activities going on simultaneously at Lawson Lake. Activities will range from fishing, hiking canoeing, arts and crafts, sports and educational programs. The Pride Center will also hold a special camp for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender youth and their “allies.”
“We want it to be a safe place for kids to just be kids,” said McCoy, adding that in the future he would like for Lake Lawson to be an overnight camp.
Participation for the camp will be free for most children, but parents should call the Boys and Girls Club if they would like to send their child to camp in order to fill out an emergency contact form and discuss payment, if necessary. Hunter said depending on income level, some families could be asked to pay up to $60 a week for camp.
The camps are being offered in two sessions. The first session has already begun, but children can still be signed up for either session as space allows. Hunter said the main bus leaves from the Boys and Girls Club’s facility on Delaware Avenue in Albany. Breakfast, lunch and a snack is provided by the Northeast Regional Food Bank.
“These are typically kids who wouldn’t have these experience if it wasn’t for this camp,” said Hunter. “It was a really difficult decision when we made the choice a few years ago to not go back Lawson Lake, but things have been going gangbusters since we returned.”
McCoy said he hopes to implement phase two next year. That is to include more repairs, the addition of Wi-Fi hotspots for tech classes and implementing more pick up points for campers needing transportation.
Camps are in session Monday through Friday during business hours. At all other times, Lawson Lake Park is open to the public.